Recommendations from 2004

I hardly consider this an exhaustive list. I was trying to make it into a top ten, but it just didn’t seem appropriate. Saying that Spiderman 2 was, in some way, better than Kill Bill seemed like saying apple juice is better than orange juice. Instead, I have compiled a list of films that I thought were worth noting that either were released or re-released in the past year. I reserve the right to edit this list as people yell at me for forgetting films that should be here.

  • Garden State

    This one I will state explicitly: This was my favorite movie of the year. Hands down. Perfect execution by Braff and company showing realistic tones of a young man begining to realize he has slept through most of his life. Subtle wit and simple metaphors keep it from being too overbearing but still maintain enough to make its point. Best soundtrack for a film in a long time.
  • Donnie Darko (Director’s Cut)

    Fine, I haven’t seen it. But I’d put it on here anyways so who cares. Go see it. Brilliant. On my top 20 of all time.
  • Spiderman 2

    Ebert called it the best superhero movie ever. I can’t agree, but I won’t fully disagree either. There are only two weak spots in this one. Dunst still can’t act and Molina is given very little to do with Doc Ock to make him memorable. On the plus side, the emotional rollercoaster we are given by Sam Rami is breathtaking. Highlight for me was the homage to Evil Dead 2 in the hospital. Note the chainsaw and the “evil-cam” tenticles… I’m not sick for laughing the whole way through, just slightly deranged.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    Jim Carrey finally sheds Jim Carrey and becomes somebody else. I managed to get through this whole movie without saying, “Oh, there he is.” I was caught in the spell. Charlie Kaufman deserves more recognition than being a character in his own movie (Adaptation). Give this man some statues people.
  • Collateral

    Michael Mann earned my respect after filming Heat and The Insider, two of my favorite films of all time. While both of those are rather long, Mann has learned of editing this time out and has made a slimmer film with a more even tempo. Jamie Foxx rivals Tom Cruise for screen presence but the winner is the night time skyline of the city. Mann gives us long glances at the lights of the city giving the film a larger feel even though a good portion is held within a cab. Cinematography nomination is a must.
  • The Aviator

    Leo still looks to young to play anyone over the age of 30, but besides that this film is excellent. The acting is spot on and the script, while definitely expansive and drawn out, is fascinating and spellbinding. Alan Alda and Adam Baldwin are great as supporting characters.
  • Kill Bill 1 & 2

    I’m bundling these together since that’s the way they should have been. Tarantino has an eye for great cinema but I admit, it’s not for everyone. His dialogue is not loved by all, but deserves recognition for being the most fresh that I’ve heard in a long time. Sure he is “ripping off” movies left right and center… but how many rip offs come out as good or better than the source material? And isn’t impersonation one of the best compliments you can give? Part 2 even works on its own as a film and is easier to stomach violence wise.
  • The Incredibles

    Pixar seems to be invincible. Character design, plot, script… all tight as a drum. I don’t think this is their funniest film, but it is not supposed to be a laugh riot comedy. This is a family action film. Highly recommended.
  • Spartan

    When you do plays for a living, your films will focus more on characters speaking than actions occuring. This is how David Mamet works. Val Kilmer gives an excellent performance as a spy/soldier (we are never really told what he is) who is called in to help with a missing persons case. The story spills out and twists many times before we reach our destination. Epic storytelling with such minimal scope you’ll wonder how it managed to work out.
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

    I have a thing for Wes Anderson. I think it’s the resemblance between his work and that of some aspects of Kubrick. Or maybe just his ability to make movies about losers and make us care about them. Bill Murray is brilliant in this, but I don’t think he is really acting that much. Most of his candid comments in this film I think are shared by him in real life. When watching this, keep that in mind and see if you agree. I believe the reason he is all pissed off in the press is because he is taking all the critical response to the film personally. Something to think about at least… Also, best usage of Sigur Ros in a film… EVER. I got goosebumps.
  • Shaun of the Dead

    Who needs a new Evil Dead remake when new films like this are possible? This quirky english comedy was a hit beyond all imagination of its creators. The tagline says it all, “A Romantic Comedy… With Zombies”

And now, the documentaries…

  • The Corporation

    If a coporation has the rights of a person, what kind of person is it? This film builds a tight argument to show it is nothing less than a psychopath. A little lengthy for most people, but a must see for everyone.
  • The Fog of War

    Errol Morris’ documentary on MacNamara is both pointed and fuzzy. While some details are given that show his life through the second world war and Vietnam, some questions are left unanswered. Some have suggested that Morris wasn’t tough enough as an interviewer to get the real answers from MacNamara, but in the epilogue we see that it was more likely that MacNamara wouldn’t have done it if he had tried harder. Note that while he seems apologetic about wars in the past, MacNamara is only sad about the loss of American lives. The cost of the enemy civilians is never really mentioned.
  • Control Room

    Reverse propaganda? Probably. This “insiders” look at Al Jazeera is as manipulative as CNN yet it is refreshing to see the view from the other side of the fence. It would be good to remind ourselves that the “enemies” are the terrorists, not the citizens of the countries where they live.
  • Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

    Yes, it’s a documentary that isn’t political. *Gasp* Highly recommended, even if only to see the kings of 90s metal go through therapy together to discuss their feelings.
  • Fahrenheit 9-11*

    I don’t think this is a documentary. (Note the star) This is editorial filmmaking if anything. I was captivated from the opening shots of the 2000 election all the way to the final shots of the Bush administration wrapping up. I don’t agree with Moore as much as I used to. We all grow up eventually I guess. But I do think it is good to have opinions and voice them. Even if you are wrong. That’s what our ancestors fought for anyways. If you want to spit on their graves feel free. If people would actually discuss issues rather than bash each other with ridiculous statements (ie: Kerry’s “superficial” purple hearts or Bush’s pretzel wounds) we wouldn’t need muckrackers like Moore. At least this time out, Moore chooses to show ideas of other people than try and build his own thesis like in Bowling. The film benefits from this as it is less scatter shot… but not by much. Still, worth seeing before seeing Fahrenhype 9-11, the Republican counter offensive.

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